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A History of China by Wolfram Eberhard

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[Transcriber's Note: The following text contains numerous non-English
words containing diacritical marks not contained in the ASCII character
set. Characters accented by those marks, and the corresponding text
representations are as follows (where x represents the character being
accented). All such symbols in this text above the character being

breve (u-shaped symbol): [)x]
caron (v-shaped symbol): [vx]
macron (straight line): [=x]
acute (egu) accent: ['x]

Additionally, the author has spelled certain words inconsistently. Those
have been adjusted to be consistent where possible. Examples of such
adjustments are as follows:

From To
Northwestern North-western
Southwards Southward
Programme Program
re-introduced reintroduced
practise practice
Lotos Lotus
Ju-Chen Juchen
cooperate co-operate
life-time lifetime
man-power manpower
favor favour

In general such changes are made to be consistent with the predominate
usage in the text, or if there was not a predominate spelling, to the
more modern.]








1 Sources for the earliest history
2 The Peking Man
3 The Palaeolithic Age
4 The Neolithic Age
5 The eight principal prehistoric cultures
6 The Yang-shao culture
7 The Lung-shan culture
8 The first petty States in Shansi

Chapter II: THE SHANG DYNASTY (_c_. 1600-1028 B.C.)

1 Period, origin, material culture
2 Writing and Religion
3 Transition to feudalism


Chapter III: THE CHOU DYNASTY (_c_. 1028-257 B.C.)

1 Cultural origin of the Chou and end of the Shang dynasty
2 Feudalism in the new empire
3 Fusion of Chou and Shang
4 Limitation of the imperial power
5 Changes in the relative strength of the feudal states
6 Confucius
7 Lao Tz[)u]

Chapter IV: THE CONTENDING STATES (481-256 B.C.):

1 Social and military changes
2 Economic changes
3 Cultural changes

Chapter V: THE CH'IN DYNASTY (256-207 B.C.)

1 Towards the unitary State
2 Centralization in every field
3 Frontier Defence. Internal collapse


Chapter VI: THE HAN DYNASTY (206 B.C.-A.D. 220)

1 Development of the gentry-state
2 Situation of the Hsiung-nu empire; its relation to the
Han empire. Incorporation of South China
3 Brief feudal reaction. Consolidation of the gentry
4 Turkestan policy. End of the Hsiung-nu empire
5 Impoverishment. Cliques. End of the Dynasty
6 The pseudo-socialistic dictatorship. Revolt of the "Red Eyebrows"
7 Reaction and Restoration: the Later Han dynasty
8 Hsiung-nu policy
9 Economic situation. Rebellion of the "Yellow Turbans".
Collapse of the Han dynasty
10 Literature and Art


(A) _The three kingdoms_ (A.D. 220-265)
1 Social, intellectual, and economic problems during the
period of the first division
2 Status of the two southern Kingdoms
3 The northern State of Wei

(B) _The Western Chin dynasty_ (265-317)
1 Internal situation in the Chin empire
2 Effect on the frontier peoples
3 Struggles for the throne
4 Migration of Chinese
5 Victory of the Huns. The Hun Han dynasty
(later renamed the Earlier Chao dynasty)

(C) _The alien empires in North China, down to the Toba_
(A.D. 317-385)
1 The Later Chao dynasty in eastern North China (Hun; 329-352)
2 Earlier Yen dynasty in the north-east (proto-Mongol; 352-370),
and the Earlier Ch'in dynasty in all north China (Tibetan; 351-394)
3 The fragmentation of north China
4 Sociological analysis of the two great alien empires
5 Sociological analysis of the petty States
6 Spread of Buddhism

(D) _The Toba empire in North China_ (A.D. 385-550)
1 The rise of the Toba State
2 The Hun kingdom of the Hsia (407-431)
3 Rise of the Toba to a great power
4 Economic and social conditions
5 Victory and retreat of Buddhism

(E) _Succession States of the Toba_ (A.D. 550-580):
_Northern Ch'i dynasty, Northern Chou dynasty_
1 Reasons for the splitting of the Toba empire
2 Appearance of the (Goek) Turks
3 The Northern Ch'i dynasty; the Northern Chou dynasty

(F) _The southern empires_
1 Economic and social situation in the south
2 Struggles between cliques under the Eastern Chin dynasty
(A.D. 317-419)
3 The Liu-Sung dynasty (A.D. 420-478) and the Southern Ch'i dynasty
(A.D. 479-501)
4 The Liang dynasty (A.D. 502-556)
5 The Ch'en dynasty (A.D. 557-588) and its ending by the Sui
6 Cultural achievements of the south


(A) _The Sui dynasty_ (A.D. 580-618)
1 Internal situation in the newly unified empire
2 Relations with Turks and with Korea
3 Reasons for collapse

(B) _The T'ang dynasty_ (A.D. 618-906)
1 Reforms and decentralization
2 Turkish policy
3 Conquest of Turkestan and Korea. Summit of power
4 The reign of the empress Wu: Buddhism and capitalism
5 Second blossoming of T'ang culture
6 Revolt of a military governor
7 The role of the Uighurs. Confiscation of the capital of the
8 First successful peasant revolt. Collapse of the empire



(A) _The period of the Five Dynasties_ (906-960)
1 Beginning of a new epoch
2 Political situation in the tenth century
3 Monopolistic trade in South China. Printing and paper money in the
4 Political history of the Five Dynasties

(B) _Period of Moderate Absolutism_
(1) _The Northern Sung dynasty_
1 Southward expansion
2 Administration and army. Inflation
3 Reforms and Welfare schemes
4 Cultural situation (philosophy, religion, literature, painting)
5 Military collapse

(2) _The Liao (Kitan) dynasty in the north_ (937-1125)
1 Sociological structure. Claim to the Chinese imperial throne
2 The State of the Kara-Kitai

(3) _The Hsi-Hsia State in the north_ (1038-1227)
1 Continuation of Turkish traditions

(4) _The empire of the Southern Sung dynasty_ (1127-1279)
1 Foundation
2 Internal situation
3 Cultural situation; reasons for the collapse

(5) _The empire of the Juchen in the north (i_ 115-1234)
1 Rapid expansion from northern Korea to the Yangtze
2 United front of all Chinese
3 Start of the Mongol empire


(A) _The Mongol Epoch_ (1280-1368)
1 Beginning of new foreign rules
2 "Nationality legislation"
3 Military position
4 Social situation
5 Popular risings: National rising
6 Cultural

(B) _The Ming Epoch_ (1368-1644)
1 Start. National feeling
2 Wars against Mongols and Japanese
3 Social legislation within the existing order
4 Colonization and agricultural developments
5 Commercial and industrial developments
6 Growth of the small gentry
7 Literature, art, crafts
8 Politics at court
9 Navy. Southward expansion
10 Struggles between cliques
11 Risings
12 Machiavellism
13 Foreign relations in the sixteenth century
14 External and internal perils

(C) _The Manchu Dynasty_ (1644-1911)
1 Installation of the Manchus
2 Decline in the eighteenth century
3 Expansion in Central Asia; the first State treaty
4 Culture
5 Relations with the outer world
6 Decline; revolts
7 European Imperialism in the Far East
8 Risings in Turkestan and within China: the T'ai P'ing Rebellion
9 Collision with Japan; further Capitulations
10 Russia in Manchuria
11 Reform and reaction: The Boxer Rising
12 End of the dynasty

Chapter XI: THE REPUBLIC (1912-1948)

1 Social and intellectual position
2 First period of the Republic: The warlords
3 Second period of the Republic: Nationalist China
4 The Sino-Japanese war (1937-1945)


1 The growth of communism
2 Nationalist China in Taiwan
3 Communist China

Notes and References



1 Painted pottery from Kansu: Neolithic.
_In the collection of the Museum fuer Voelkerkunde, Berlin_.

2 Ancient bronze tripod found at Anyang.
_From G. Ecke: Fruehe chinesische Bronzen aus der Sammlung Oskar
Trautmann, Peking_ 1939, _plate_ 3.

3 Bronze plaque representing two horses fighting each other. Ordos
region, animal style.
_From V. Griessmaier: Sammlung Baron Eduard von der Heydt,
Vienna 1936, illustration No. 6_.

4 Hunting scene: detail from the reliefs in the tombs at Wu-liang-tz'u.
_From a print in the author's possession_.

5 Part of the "Great Wall".
_Photo Eberhard_.

6 Sun Ch'uean, ruler of Wu.
_From a painting by Yen Li-pen (c. 640-680_).

7 General view of the Buddhist cave-temples of Yuen-kang.
In the foreground, the present village; in the background the rampart.
_Photo H. Hammer-Morrisson_.

8 Detail from the Buddhist cave-reliefs of Lung-men.
_From a print in the author's possession_.

9 Statue of Mi-lo (Maitreya, the next future Buddha), in the "Great
Buddha Temple" at Chengting (Hopei).
_Photo H. Hammer-Morrisson_.

10 Ladies of the Court: Clay models which accompanied the dead person to
the grave. T'ang period.
_In the collection of the Museum fuer Voelkerkunde. Berlin_.

11 Distinguished founder: a temple banner found at Khotcho, Turkestan.
_Museum fuer Voelkerkunde, Berlin. No. 1B 4524, illustration B 408_.

12 Ancient tiled pagoda at Chengting (Hopei).
_Photo H. Hammer-Morrisson_.

13 Horse-training. Painting by Li Lung-mien. Late Sung period.
_Manchu Royal House Collection_.

14 Aborigines of South China, of the "Black Miao" tribe, at a festival.
China-ink drawing of the eighteenth century.
_Collection of the Museum fuer Voelkerkunde, Berlin. No. 1D 8756, 68_.

15 Pavilion on the "Coal Hill" at Peking, in which the last Ming emperor
committed suicide.
_Photo Eberhard_.

16 The imperial summer palace of the Manchu rulers, at Jehol.
_Photo H. Hammer-Morrisson_.

17 Tower on the city wall of Peking.
_Photo H. Hammer-Morrisson_.


1 Regions of the principal local cultures in prehistoric times

2 The principal feudal States in the feudal epoch (roughly 722-481 B.C.)

3 China in the struggle with the Huns or Hsiung-nu (roughly 128-100

4 The Toba empire (about A.D. 500)

5 The T'ang realm (about A.D. 750)

6 The State of the Later T'ang dynasty (923-935)


There are indeed enough Histories of China already: why yet another one?
Because the time has come for new departures; because we need to clear
away the false notions with which the general public is constantly being
fed by one author after another; because from time to time syntheses
become necessary for the presentation of the stage reached by research.

Histories of China fall, with few exceptions, into one or the other of
two groups, pro-Chinese and anti-Chinese: the latter used to
predominate, but today the former type is much more frequently found. We
have no desire to show that China's history is the most glorious or her
civilization the oldest in the world. A claim to the longest history
does not establish the greatness of a civilization; the importance of a
civilization becomes apparent in its achievements. A thousand years ago
China's civilization towered over those of the peoples of Europe. Today
the West is leading; tomorrow China may lead again. We need to realize
how China became what she is, and to note the paths pursued by the
Chinese in human thought and action. The lives of emperors, the great
battles, this or the other famous deed, matter less to us than the
discovery of the great forces that underlie these features and govern
the human element. Only when we have knowledge of those forces and
counter-forces can we realize the significance of the great
personalities who have emerged in China; and only then will the history
of China become intelligible even to those who have little knowledge of
the Far East and can make nothing of a mere enumeration of dynasties and

Views on China's history have radically changed in recent years. Until
about thirty years ago our knowledge of the earliest times in China
depended entirely on Chinese documents of much later date; now we are
able to rely on many excavations which enable us to check the written
sources. Ethnological, anthropological, and sociological research has
begun for China and her neighbours; thus we are in a position to write
with some confidence about the making of China, and about her ethnical
development, where formerly we could only grope in the dark. The claim
that "the Chinese race" produced the high Chinese civilization entirely
by its own efforts, thanks to its special gifts, has become just as
untenable as the other theory that immigrants from the West, some
conceivably from Europe, carried civilization to the Far East. We know
now that in early times there was no "Chinese race", there were not even
"Chinese", just as there were no "French" and no "Swiss" two thousand
years ago. The "Chinese" resulted from the amalgamation of many separate
peoples of different races in an enormously complicated and
long-drawn-out process, as with all the other high civilizations of the

The picture of ancient and medieval China has also been entirely changed
since it has been realized that the sources on which reliance has always
been placed were not objective, but deliberately and emphatically
represented a particular philosophy. The reports on the emperors and
ministers of the earliest period are not historical at all, but served
as examples of ideas of social policy or as glorifications of particular
noble families. Myths such as we find to this day among China's
neighbours were made into history; gods were made men and linked
together by long family trees. We have been able to touch on all these
things only briefly, and have had to dispense with any account of the
complicated processes that have taken place here.

The official dynastic histories apply to the course of Chinese history
the criterion of Confucian ethics; for them history is a textbook of
ethics, designed to show by means of examples how the man of high
character should behave or not behave. We have to go deeper, and try to
extract the historic truth from these records. Many specialized studies
by Chinese, Japanese, and Western scholars on problems of Chinese
history are now available and of assistance in this task. However, some
Chinese writers still imagine that they are serving their country by yet
again dishing up the old fables for the foreigner as history; and some
Europeans, knowing no better or aiming at setting alongside the
unedifying history of Europe the shining example of the conventional
story of China, continue in the old groove. To this day, of course, we
are far from having really worked through every period of Chinese
history; there are long periods on which scarcely any work has yet been
done. Thus the picture we are able to give today has no finality about
it and will need many modifications. But the time has come for a new
synthesis, so that criticism may proceed along the broadest possible
front and push our knowledge further forward.

The present work is intended for the general reader and not for the
specialist, who will devote his attention to particular studies and to
the original texts. In view of the wide scope of the work, I have had to
confine myself to placing certain lines of thought in the foreground and
paying less attention to others. I have devoted myself mainly to showing
the main lines of China's social and cultural development down to the
present day. But I have also been concerned not to leave out of account
China's relations with her neighbours. Now that we have a better
knowledge of China's neighbours, the Turks, Mongols, Tibetans, Tunguses,
Tai, not confined to the narratives of Chinese, who always speak only of
"barbarians", we are better able to realize how closely China has been
associated with her neighbours from the first day of her history to the
present time; how greatly she is indebted to them, and how much she has
given them. We no longer see China as a great civilization surrounded by
barbarians, but we study the Chinese coming to terms with their
neighbours, who had civilizations of quite different types but
nevertheless developed ones.

It is usual to split up Chinese history under the various dynasties that
have ruled China or parts thereof. The beginning or end of a dynasty
does not always indicate the beginning or the end of a definite period
of China's social or cultural development. We have tried to break
China's history down into the three large periods--"Antiquity", "The
Middle Ages", and "Modern Times". This does not mean that we compare
these periods with periods of the same name in Western history although,
naturally, we find some similarities with the development of society and
culture in the West. Every attempt towards periodization is to some
degree arbitrary: the beginning and end of the Middle Ages, for
instance, cannot be fixed to a year, because development is a continuous
process. To some degree any periodization is a matter of convenience,
and it should be accepted as such.

The account of Chinese history here given is based on a study of the
original documents and excavations, and on a study of recent research
done by Chinese, Japanese and Western scholars, including my own
research. In many cases, these recent studies produced new data or
arranged new data in a new way without an attempt to draw general
conclusions. By putting such studies together, by fitting them into the
pattern that already existed, new insights into social and cultural
processes have been gained. The specialist in the field will, I hope,
easily recognize the sources, primary or secondary, on which such new
insights represented in this book are based. Brief notes are appended
for each chapter; they indicate the most important works in English and
provide the general reader with an opportunity of finding further
information on the problems touched on. For the specialist brief hints
to international research are given, mainly in cases in which different
interpretations have been proposed.

Chinese words are transcribed according to the Wade-Giles system with
the exception of names for which already a popular way of transcription
exists (such as Peking). Place names are written without hyphen, if they
remain readable.


Chapter One


1 _Sources for the earliest history_

Until recently we were dependent for the beginnings of Chinese history
on the written Chinese tradition. According to these sources China's
history began either about 4000 B.C. or about 2700 B.C. with a
succession of wise emperors who "invented" the elements of a
civilization, such as clothing, the preparation of food, marriage, and a
state system; they instructed their people in these things, and so
brought China, as early as in the third millennium B.C., to an
astonishingly high cultural level. However, all we know of the origin of
civilizations makes this of itself entirely improbable; no other
civilization in the world originated in any such way. As time went on,
Chinese historians found more and more to say about primeval times. All
these narratives were collected in the great imperial history that
appeared at the beginning of the Manchu epoch. That book was translated
into French, and all the works written in Western languages until recent
years on Chinese history and civilization have been based in the last
resort on that translation.

Modern research has not only demonstrated that all these accounts are
inventions of a much later period, but has also shown _why_ such
narratives were composed. The older historical sources make no mention
of any rulers before 2200 B.C., no mention even of their names. The
names of earlier rulers first appear in documents of about 400 B.C.; the
deeds attributed to them and the dates assigned to them often do not
appear until much later. Secondly, it was shown that the traditional
chronology is wrong and another must be adopted, reducing all the dates
for the more ancient history, before 900 B.C. Finally, all narratives
and reports from China's earliest period have been dealt a mortal blow
by modern archaeology, with the excavations of recent years. There was
no trace of any high civilization in the third millennium B.C., and,
indeed, we can only speak of a real "Chinese civilization" from 1300
B.C. onward. The peoples of the China of that time had come from the
most varied sources; from 1300 B.C. they underwent a common process of
development that welded them into a new unity. In this sense and
emphasizing the cultural aspects, we are justified in using from then on
a new name, "Chinese", for the peoples of China. Those sections,
however, of their ancestral populations who played no part in the
subsequent cultural and racial fusion, we may fairly call "non-Chinese".
This distinction answers the question that continually crops up, whether
the Chinese are "autochthonons". They are autochthonons in the sense
that they formed a unit in the Far East, in the geographical region of
the present China, and were not immigrants from the Middle East.

2 _The Peking Man_

Man makes his appearance in the Far East at a time when remains in other
parts of the world are very rare and are disputed. He appears as the
so-called "Peking Man", whose bones were found in caves of
Chou-k'ou-tien south of Peking. The Peking Man is vastly different from
the men of today, and forms a special branch of the human race, closely
allied to the Pithecanthropus of Java. The formation of later races of
mankind from these types has not yet been traced, if it occurred at all.
Some anthropologists consider, however, that the Peking Man possessed
already certain characteristics peculiar to the yellow race.

The Peking Man lived in caves; no doubt he was a hunter, already in
possession of very simple stone implements and also of the art of making
fire. As none of the skeletons so far found are complete, it is assumed
that he buried certain bones of the dead in different places from the
rest. This burial custom, which is found among primitive peoples in
other parts of the world, suggests the conclusion that the Peking Man
already had religious notions. We have no knowledge yet of the length of
time the Peking Man may have inhabited the Far East. His first traces
are attributed to a million years ago, and he may have flourished in
500,000 B.C.

3 _The Palaeolithic Age_

After the period of the Peking Man there comes a great gap in our
knowledge. All that we know indicates that at the time of the Peking Man
there must have been a warmer and especially a damper climate in North
China and Inner Mongolia than today. Great areas of the Ordos region,
now dry steppe, were traversed in that epoch by small rivers and lakes
beside which men could live. There were elephants, rhinoceroses, extinct
species of stag and bull, even tapirs and other wild animals. About
50,000 B.C. there lived by these lakes a hunting people whose stone
implements (and a few of bone) have been found in many places. The
implements are comparable in type with the palaeolithic implements of
Europe (Mousterian type, and more rarely Aurignacian or even
Magdalenian). They are not, however, exactly like the European
implements, but have a character of their own. We do not yet know what
the men of these communities looked like, because as yet no indisputable
human remains have been found. All the stone implements have been found
on the surface, where they have been brought to light by the wind as it
swept away the loess. These stone-age communities seem to have lasted a
considerable time and to have been spread not only over North China but
over Mongolia and Manchuria. It must not be assumed that the stone age
came to an end at the same time everywhere. Historical accounts have
recorded, for instance, that stone implements were still in use in
Manchuria and eastern Mongolia at a time when metal was known and used
in western Mongolia and northern China. Our knowledge about the
palaeolithic period of Central and South China is still extremely
limited; we have to wait for more excavations before anything can be
said. Certainly, many implements in this area were made of wood or more
probably bamboo, such as we still find among the non-Chinese tribes of
the south-west and of South-East Asia. Such implements, naturally, could
not last until today.

About 25,000 B.C. there appears in North China a new human type, found
in upper layers in the same caves that sheltered Peking Man. This type
is beyond doubt not Mongoloid, and may have been allied to the Ainu, a
non-Mongol race still living in northern Japan. These, too, were a
palaeolithic people, though some of their implements show technical
advance. Later they disappear, probably because they were absorbed into
various populations of central and northern Asia. Remains of them have
been found in badly explored graves in northern Korea.

4 _The Neolithic age_

In the period that now followed, northern China must have gradually
become arid, and the formation of loess seems to have steadily advanced.
There is once more a great gap in our knowledge until, about 4000 B.C.,
we can trace in North China a purely Mongoloid people with a neolithic
culture. In place of hunters we find cattle breeders, who are even to
some extent agriculturists as well. This may seem an astonishing
statement for so early an age. It is a fact, however, that pure pastoral
nomadism is exceptional, that normal pastoral nomads have always added a
little farming to their cattle-breeding, in order to secure the needed
additional food and above all fodder, for the winter.

At this time, about 4000 B.C., the other parts of China come into view.
The neolithic implements of the various regions of the Far East are far
from being uniform; there are various separate cultures. In the
north-west of China there is a system of cattle-breeding combined with
agriculture, a distinguishing feature being the possession of finely
polished axes of rectangular section, with a cutting edge. Farther east,
in the north and reaching far to the south, is found a culture with axes
of round or oval section. In the south and in the coastal region from
Nanking to Tonking, Yuennan to Fukien, and reaching as far as the coasts
of Korea and Japan, is a culture with so-called shoulder-axes. Szechwan
and Yuennan represented a further independent culture.

All these cultures were at first independent. Later the shoulder-axe
culture penetrated as far as eastern India. Its people are known to
philological research as Austroasiatics, who formed the original stock
of the Australian aborigines; they survived in India as the Munda
tribes, in Indo-China as the Mon-Khmer, and also remained in pockets on
the islands of Indonesia and especially Melanesia. All these peoples had
migrated from southern China. The peoples with the oval-axe culture are
the so-called Papuan peoples in Melanesia; they, too, migrated from
southern China, probably before the others. Both groups influenced the
ancient Japanese culture. The rectangular-axe culture of north-west
China spread widely, and moved southward, where the Austronesian peoples
(from whom the Malays are descended) were its principal constituents,
spreading that culture also to Japan.

Thus we see here, in this period around 4000 B.C., an extensive mutual
penetration of the various cultures all over the Far East, including
Japan, which in the palaeolithic age was apparently without or almost
without settlers.

5 _The eight principal prehistoric cultures_

In the period roughly around 2500 B.C. the general historical view
becomes much clearer. Thanks to a special method of working, making use
of the ethnological sources available from later times together with the
archaeological sources, much new knowledge has been gained in recent
years. At this time there is still no trace of a Chinese realm; we find
instead on Chinese soil a considerable number of separate local
cultures, each developing on its own lines. The chief of these cultures,
acquaintance with which is essential to a knowledge of the whole later
development of the Far East, are as follows:

(a) _The north-east culture_, centred in the present provinces of Hopei
(in which Peking lies), Shantung, and southern Manchuria. The people of
this culture were ancestors of the Tunguses, probably mixed with an
element that is contained in the present-day Paleo-Siberian tribes.
These men were mainly hunters, but probably soon developed a little
primitive agriculture and made coarse, thick pottery with certain basic
forms which were long preserved in subsequent Chinese pottery (for
instance, a type of the so-called tripods). Later, pig-breeding became
typical of this culture.

(b) _The northern culture_ existed to the west of that culture, in the
region of the present Chinese province of Shansi and in the province of
Jehol in Inner Mongolia. These people had been hunters, but then became
pastoral nomads, depending mainly on cattle. The people of this culture
were the tribes later known as Mongols, the so-called proto-Mongols.
Anthropologically they belonged, like the Tunguses, to the Mongol race.

(c) The people of the culture farther west, the _north-west culture_,
were not Mongols. They, too, were originally hunters, and later became a
pastoral people, with a not inconsiderable agriculture (especially
growing wheat and millet). The typical animal of this group soon became
the horse. The horse seems to be the last of the great animals to be
domesticated, and the date of its first occurrence in domesticated form
in the Far East is not yet determined, but we can assume that by 2500
B.C. this group was already in the possession of horses. The horse has
always been a "luxury", a valuable animal which needed special care. For
their economic needs, these tribes depended on other animals, probably
sheep, goats, and cattle. The centre of this culture, so far as can be
ascertained from Chinese sources, were the present provinces of Shensi
and Kansu, but mainly only the plains. The people of this culture were
most probably ancestors of the later Turkish peoples. It is not
suggested, of course, that the original home of the Turks lay in the
region of the Chinese provinces of Shensi and Kansu; one gains the
impression, however, that this was a border region of the Turkish
expansion; the Chinese documents concerning that period do not suffice
to establish the centre of the Turkish territory.

(d) In the _west_, in the present provinces of Szechwan and in all the
mountain regions of the provinces of Kansu and Shensi, lived the
ancestors of the Tibetan peoples as another separate culture. They were
shepherds, generally wandering with their flocks of sheep and goats on
the mountain heights.

(e) In the _south_ we meet with four further cultures. One is very
primitive, the Liao culture, the peoples of which are the Austroasiatics
already mentioned. These are peoples who never developed beyond the
stage of primitive hunters, some of whom were not even acquainted with
the bow and arrow. Farther east is the Yao culture, an early
Austronesian culture, the people of which also lived in the mountains,
some as collectors and hunters, some going over to a simple type of
agriculture (denshiring). They mingled later with the last great culture
of the south, the Tai culture, distinguished by agriculture. The people
lived in the valleys and mainly cultivated rice.

The origin of rice is not yet known; according to some scholars, rice
was first cultivated in the area of present Burma and was perhaps at
first a perennial plant. Apart from the typical rice which needs much
water, there were also some strains of dry rice which, however, did not
gain much importance. The centre of this Tai culture may have been in
the present provinces of Kuangtung and Kuanghsi. Today, their
descendants form the principal components of the Tai in Thailand, the
Shan in Burma and the Lao in Laos. Their immigration into the areas of
the Shan States of Burma and into Thailand took place only in quite
recent historical periods, probably not much earlier than A.D. 1000.

Finally there arose from the mixture of the Yao with the Tai culture, at
a rather later time, the Yueeh culture, another early Austronesian
culture, which then spread over wide regions of Indonesia, and of which
the axe of rectangular section, mentioned above, became typical.

Thus, to sum up, we may say that, quite roughly, in the middle of the
third millennium we meet in the _north_ and west of present-day China
with a number of herdsmen cultures. In the _south_ there were a number
of agrarian cultures, of which the Tai was the most powerful, becoming
of most importance to the later China. We must assume that these
cultures were as yet undifferentiated in their social composition, that
is to say that as yet there was no distinct social stratification, but
at most beginnings of class-formation, especially among the nomad

[Illustration: Map 1. Regions of the principal local cultures in
prehistoric times. _Local cultures of minor importance have not been

6 _The Yang-shao culture_

The various cultures here described gradually penetrated one another,
especially at points where they met. Such a process does not yield a
simple total of the cultural elements involved; any new combination
produces entirely different conditions with corresponding new results
which, in turn, represent the characteristics of the culture that
supervenes. We can no longer follow this process of penetration in
detail; it need not by any means have been always warlike. Conquest of
one group by another was only one way of mutual cultural penetration. In
other cases, a group which occupied the higher altitudes and practiced
hunting or slash-and-burn agriculture came into closer contacts with
another group in the valleys which practiced some form of higher
agriculture; frequently, such contacts resulted in particular forms of
division of labour in a unified and often stratified new form of
society. Recent and present developments in South-East Asia present a
number of examples for such changes. Increase of population is certainly
one of the most important elements which lead to these developments. The
result, as a rule, was a stratified society being made up of at least
one privileged and one ruled stratum. Thus there came into existence
around 2000 B.C. some new cultures, which are well known
archaeologically. The most important of these are the Yang-shao culture
in the west and the Lung-shan culture in the east. Our knowledge of both
these cultures is of quite recent date and there are many enigmas still
to be cleared up.

The _Yang-shao culture_ takes its name from a prehistoric settlement in
the west of the present province of Honan, where Swedish investigators
discovered it. Typical of this culture is its wonderfully fine pottery,
apparently used as gifts to the dead. It is painted in three colours,
white, red, and black. The patterns are all stylized, designs copied
from nature being rare. We are now able to divide this painted pottery
into several sub-types of specific distribution, and we know that this
style existed from _c_. 2200 B.C. on. In general, it tends to disappear
as does painted pottery in other parts of the world with the beginning
of urban civilization and the invention of writing. The typical
Yang-shao culture seems to have come to an end around 1600 or 1500 B.C.
It continued in some more remote areas, especially of Kansu, perhaps to
about 700 B.C. Remnants of this painted pottery have been found over a
wide area from Southern Manchuria, Hopei, Shansi, Honan, Shensi to
Kansu; some pieces have also been discovered in Sinkiang. Thus far, it
seems that it occurred mainly in the mountainous parts of North and
North-West China. The people of this culture lived in villages near to
the rivers and creeks. They had various forms of houses, including
underground dwellings and animal enclosures. They practiced some
agriculture; some authors believe that rice was already known to them.
They also had domesticated animals. Their implements were of stone with
rare specimens of bone. The axes were of the rectangular type. Metal was
as yet unknown, but seems to have been introduced towards the end of the
period. They buried their dead on the higher elevations, and here the
painted pottery was found. For their daily life, they used predominantly
a coarse grey pottery.

After the discovery of this culture, its pottery was compared with the
painted pottery of the West, and a number of resemblances were found,
especially with the pottery of the Lower Danube basin and that of Anau,
in Turkestan. Some authors claim that such resemblances are fortuitous
and believe that the older layers of this culture are to be found in the
eastern part of its distribution and only the later layers in the west.
It is, they say, these later stages which show the strongest
resemblances with the West. Other authors believe that the painted
pottery came from the West where it occurs definitely earlier than in
the Far East; some investigators went so far as to regard the
Indo-Europeans as the parents of that civilization. As we find people
who spoke an Indo-European language in the Far East in a later period,
they tend to connect the spread of painted pottery with the spread of
Indo-European-speaking groups. As most findings of painted pottery in
the Far East do not stem from scientific excavations it is difficult to
make any decision at this moment. We will have to wait for more and
modern excavations.

From our knowledge of primeval settlement in West and North-West China
we know, however, that Tibetan groups, probably mixed with Turkish
elements, must have been the main inhabitants of the whole region in
which this painted pottery existed. Whatever the origin of the painted
pottery may be, it seems that people of these two groups were the main
users of it. Most of the shapes of their pottery are not found in later
Chinese pottery.

7 _The Lung-shan culture_

While the Yang-shao culture flourished in the mountain regions of
northern and western China around 2000 B.C., there came into existence
in the plains of eastern China another culture, which is called the
Lung-shan culture, from the scene of the principal discoveries.
Lung-shan is in the province of Shantung, near Chinan-fu. This culture,
discovered only about twenty-five years ago, is distinguished by a black
pottery of exceptionally fine quality and by a similar absence of metal.
The pottery has a polished appearance on the exterior; it is never
painted, and mostly without decoration; at most it may have incised
geometrical patterns. The forms of the vessels are the same as have
remained typical of Chinese pottery, and of Far Eastern pottery in
general. To that extent the Lung-shan culture may be described as one of
the direct predecessors of the later Chinese civilization.

As in the West, we find in Lung-shan much grey pottery out of which
vessels for everyday use were produced. This simple corded or matted
ware seems to be in connection with Tunguse people who lived in the
north-east. The people of the Lung-shan culture lived on mounds produced
by repeated building on the ruins of earlier settlements, as did the
inhabitants of the "Tells" in the Near East. They were therefore a
long-settled population of agriculturists. Their houses were of mud, and
their villages were surrounded with mud walls. There are signs that
their society was stratified. So far as is known at present, this
culture was spread over the present provinces of Shantung, Kiangsu,
Chekiang, and Anhui, and some specimens of its pottery went as far as
Honan and Shansi, into the region of the painted pottery. This culture
lasted in the east until about 1600 B.C., with clear evidence of rather
longer duration only in the south. As black pottery of a similar
character occurs also in the Near East, some authors believe that it has
been introduced into the Far East by another migration (Pontic
migration) following that migration which supposedly brought the painted
pottery. This theory has not been generally accepted because of the fact
that typical black pottery is limited to the plains of East China; if it
had been brought in from the West, we should expect to find it in
considerable amounts also in West China. Ordinary black pottery can be
simply the result of a special temperature in the pottery kiln; such
pottery can be found almost everywhere. The typical thin, fine black
pottery of Lung-shan, however, is in the Far East an eastern element,
and migrants would have had to pass through the area of the painted
pottery people without leaving many traces and without pushing their
predecessors to the East. On the basis of our present knowledge we
assume that the peoples of the Lung-shan culture were probably of Tai
and Yao stocks together with some Tunguses.

Recently, a culture of mound-dwellers in Eastern China has been
discovered, and a southern Chinese culture of people with impressed or
stamped pottery. This latter seems to be connected with the Yueeh tribes.
As yet, no further details are known.

8 _The first petty States in Shansi_

At the time in which, according to archaeological research, the painted
pottery flourished in West China, Chinese historical tradition has it
that the semi-historical rulers, Yao and Shun, and the first official
dynasty, the Hsia dynasty ruled over parts of China with a centre in
southern Shansi. While we dismiss as political myths the Confucianist
stories representing Yao and Shun as models of virtuous rulers, it may
be that a small state existed in south-western Shansi under a chieftain
Yao, and farther to the east another small state under a chieftain Shun,
and that these states warred against each other until Yao's state was
destroyed. These first small states may have existed around 2000 B.C.

On the cultural scene we first find an important element of progress:
bronze, in traces in the middle layers of the Yang-shao culture, about
1800 B.C.; that element had become very widespread by 1400 B.C. The
forms of the oldest weapons and their ornamentation show similarities
with weapons from Siberia; and both mythology and other indications
suggest that the bronze came into China from the north and was not
produced in China proper. Thus, from the present state of our knowledge,
it seems most correct to say that the bronze was brought to the Far East
through the agency of peoples living north of China, such as the Turkish
tribes who in historical times were China's northern neighbours (or
perhaps only individual families or clans, the so-called smith families
with whom we meet later in Turkish tradition), reaching the Chinese
either through these people themselves or through the further agency of
Mongols. At first the forms of the weapons were left unaltered. The
bronze vessels, however, which made their appearance about 1450 B.C. are
entirely different from anything produced in other parts of Asia; their
ornamentation shows, on the one hand, elements of the so-called "animal
style" which is typical of the steppe people of the Ordos area and of
Central Asia. But most of the other elements, especially the "filling"
between stylized designs, is recognizably southern (probably of the Tai
culture), no doubt first applied to wooden vessels and vessels made from
gourds, and then transferred to bronze. This implies that the art of
casting bronze very soon spread from North China, where it was first
practiced by Turkish peoples, to the east and south, which quickly
developed bronze industries of their own. There are few deposits of
copper and tin in North China, while in South China both metals are
plentiful and easily extracted, so that a trade in bronze from south to
north soon set in.

The origin of the Hsia state may have been a consequence of the progress
due to bronze. The Chinese tradition speaks of the Hsia _dynasty_, but
can say scarcely anything about it. The excavations, too, yield no
clear conclusions, so that we can only say that it flourished at the
time and in the area in which the painted pottery occurred, with a
centre in south-west Shansi. We date this dynasty now somewhere between
2000 and 1600 B.C. and believe that it was an agrarian culture with
bronze weapons and pottery vessels but without the knowledge of the art
of writing.

Chapter Two

THE SHANG DYNASTY (_c_. 1600-1028 B.C.)

1 _Period, origin, material culture_

About 1600 B.C. we come at last into the realm of history. Of the Shang
dynasty, which now followed, we have knowledge both from later texts and
from excavations and the documents they have brought to light. The Shang
civilization, an evident off-shoot of the Lung-shan culture (Tai, Yao,
and Tunguses), but also with elements of the Hsia culture (with Tibetan
and Mongol and/or Turkish elements), was beyond doubt a high
civilization. Of the origin of the Shang _State_ we have no details, nor
do we know how the Hsia culture passed into the Shang culture.

The central territory of the Shang realm lay in north-western Honan,
alongside the Shansi mountains and extending into the plains. It was a
peasant civilization with towns. One of these towns has been excavated.
It adjoined the site of the present town of Anyang, in the province of
Honan. The town, the Shang capital from _c_. 1300 to 1028 B.C., was
probably surrounded by a mud wall, as were the settlements of the
Lung-shan people. In the centre was what evidently was the ruler's
palace. Round this were houses probably inhabited by artisans; for the
artisans formed a sort of intermediate class, as dependents of the
ruling class. From inscriptions we know that the Shang had, in addition
to their capital, at least two other large cities and many smaller
town-like settlements and villages. The rectangular houses were built in
a style still found in Chinese houses, except that their front did not
always face south as is now the general rule. The Shang buried their
kings in large, subterranean, cross-shaped tombs outside the city, and
many implements, animals and human sacrifices were buried together with
them. The custom of large burial mounds, which later became typical of
the Chou dynasty, did not yet exist.

The Shang had sculptures in stone, an art which later more or less
completely disappeared and which was resuscitated only in post-Christian
times under the influence of Indian Buddhism. Yet, Shang culture cannot
well be called a "megalithic" culture. Bronze implements and especially
bronze vessels were cast in the town. We even know the trade marks of
some famous bronze founders. The bronze weapons are still similar to
those from Siberia, and are often ornamented in the so-called "animal
style", which was used among all the nomad peoples between the Ordos
region and Siberia until the beginning of the Christian era. On the
other hand, the famous bronze vessels are more of southern type, and
reveal an advanced technique that has scarcely been excelled since.
There can be no doubt that the bronze vessels were used for religious
service and not for everyday life. For everyday use there were
earthenware vessels. Even in the middle of the first millennium B.C.,
bronze was exceedingly dear, as we know from the records of prices.
China has always suffered from scarcity of metal. For that reason metal
was accumulated as capital, entailing a further rise in prices; when
prices had reached a sufficient height, the stocks were thrown on the
market and prices fell again. Later, when there was a metal coinage,
this cycle of inflation and deflation became still clearer. The metal
coinage was of its full nominal value, so that it was possible to coin
money by melting down bronze implements. As the money in circulation was
increased in this way, the value of the currency fell. Then it paid to
turn coin into metal implements. This once more reduced the money in
circulation and increased the value of the remaining coinage. Thus
through the whole course of Chinese history the scarcity of metal and
insufficiency of production of metal continually produced extensive
fluctuations of the stocks and the value of metal, amounting virtually
to an economic law in China. Consequently metal implements were never
universally in use, and vessels were always of earthenware, with the
further result of the early invention of porcelain. Porcelain vessels
have many of the qualities of metal ones, but are cheaper.

The earthenware vessels used in this period are in many cases already
very near to porcelain: there was a pottery of a brilliant white,
lacking only the glaze which would have made it into porcelain. Patterns
were stamped on the surface, often resembling the patterns on bronze
articles. This ware was used only for formal, ceremonial purposes. For
daily use there was also a perfectly simple grey pottery.

Silk was already in use at this time. The invention of sericulture must
therefore have dated from very ancient times in China. It undoubtedly
originated in the south of China, and at first not only the threads
spun by the silkworm but those made by other caterpillars were also
used. The remains of silk fabrics that have been found show already an
advanced weaving technique. In addition to silk, various plant fibres,
such as hemp, were in use. Woollen fabrics do not seem to have been yet

The Shang were agriculturists, but their implements were still rather
primitive. There was no real plough yet; hoes and hoe-like implements
were used, and the grain, mainly different kinds of millet and some
wheat, was harvested with sickles. The materials, from which these
implements were made, were mainly wood and stone; bronze was still too
expensive to be utilized by the ordinary farmer. As a great number of
vessels for wine in many different forms have been excavated, we can
assume that wine, made from special kinds of millet, was a popular

The Shang state had its centre in northern Honan, north of the Yellow
river. At various times, different towns were made into the capital
city; Yin-ch'ue, their last capital and the only one which has been
excavated, was their sixth capital. We do not know why the capitals were
removed to new locations; it is possible that floods were one of the
main reasons. The area under more or less organized Shang control
comprised towards the end of the dynasty the present provinces of Honan,
western Shantung, southern Hopei, central and south Shansi, east Shensi,
parts of Kiangsu and Anhui. We can only roughly estimate the size of the
population of the Shang state. Late texts say that at the time of the
annihilation of the dynasty, some 3.1 million free men and 1.1 million
serfs were captured by the conquerors; this would indicate a population
of at least some 4-5 millions. This seems a possible number, if we
consider that an inscription of the tenth century B.C. which reports
about an ordinary war against a small and unimportant western neighbour,
speaks of 13,081 free men and 4,812 serfs taken as prisoners.

Inscriptions mention many neighbours of the Shang with whom they were in
more or less continuous state of war. Many of these neighbours can now
be identified. We know that Shansi at that time was inhabited by Ch'iang
tribes, belonging to the Tibetan culture, as well as by Ti tribes,
belonging to the northern culture, and by Hsien-yuen and other tribes,
belonging to the north-western culture; the centre of the Ch'iang tribes
was more in the south-west of Shansi and in Shensi. Some of these tribes
definitely once formed a part of the earlier Hsia state. The
identification of the eastern neighbours of the Shang presents more
difficulties. We might regard them as representatives of the Tai and Yao

2 _Writing and Religion_

Not only the material but also the intellectual level attained in the
Shang period was very high. We meet for the first time with
writing--much later than in the Middle East and in India. Chinese
scholars have succeeded in deciphering some of the documents discovered,
so that we are able to learn a great deal from them. The writing is a
rudimentary form of the present-day Chinese script, and like it a
pictorial writing, but also makes use, as today, of many phonetic signs.
There were, however, a good many characters that no longer exist, and
many now used are absent. There were already more than 3,000 characters
in use of which some 1,000 can now be read. (Today newspapers use some
3,000 characters; scholars have command of up to 8,000; the whole of
Chinese literature, ancient and modern, comprises some 50,000
characters.) With these 3,000 characters the Chinese of the Shang period
were able to express themselves well.

The still existing fragments of writing of this period are found almost
exclusively on tortoiseshells or on other bony surfaces, and they
represent oracles. As early as in the Lung-shan culture there was
divination by means of "oracle bones", at first without written
characters. In the earliest period any bones of animals (especially
shoulder-bones) were used; later only tortoiseshell. For the purpose of
the oracle a depression was burnt in the shell so that cracks were
formed on the other side, and the future was foretold from their
direction. Subsequently particular questions were scratched on the
shells, and the answers to them; these are the documents that have come
down to us. In Anyang tens of thousands of these oracle bones with
inscriptions have been found. The custom of asking the oracle and of
writing the answers on the bones spread over the borders of the Shang
state and continued in some areas after the end of the dynasty.

The bronze vessels of later times often bear long inscriptions, but
those of the Shang period have only very brief texts. On the other hand,
they are ornamented with pictures, as yet largely unintelligible, of
countless deities, especially in the shape of animals or birds--pictures
that demand interpretation. The principal form on these bronzes is that
of the so-called T'ao-t'ieh, a hybrid with the head of a water-buffalo
and tiger's teeth.

The Shang period had a religion with many nature deities, especially
deities of fertility. There was no systematized pantheon, different
deities being revered in each locality, often under the most varied
names. These various deities were, however, similar in character, and
later it occurred often that many of them were combined by the priests
into a single god. The composite deities thus formed were officially
worshipped. Their primeval forms lived on, however, especially in the
villages, many centuries longer than the Shang dynasty. The sacrifices
associated with them became popular festivals, and so these gods or
their successors were saved from oblivion; some of them have lived on in
popular religion to the present day. The supreme god of the official
worship was called Shang Ti; he was a god of vegetation who guided all
growth and birth and was later conceived as a forefather of the races of
mankind. The earth was represented as a mother goddess, who bore the
plants and animals procreated by Shang Ti. In some parts of the Shang
realm the two were conceived as a married couple who later were parted
by one of their children. The husband went to heaven, and the rain is
the male seed that creates life on earth. In other regions it was
supposed that in the beginning of the world there was a world-egg, out
of which a primeval god came, whose body was represented by the earth:
his hair formed the plants, and his limbs the mountains and valleys.
Every considerable mountain was also itself a god and, similarly, the
river god, the thunder god, cloud, lightning, and wind gods, and many
others were worshipped.

In order to promote the fertility of the earth, it was believed that
sacrifices must be offered to the gods. Consequently, in the Shang realm
and the regions surrounding it there were many sorts of human
sacrifices; often the victims were prisoners of war. One gains the
impression that many wars were conducted not as wars of conquest but
only for the purpose of capturing prisoners, although the area under
Shang control gradually increased towards the west and the south-east, a
fact demonstrating the interest in conquest. In some regions men lurked
in the spring for people from other villages; they slew them, sacrificed
them to the earth, and distributed portions of the flesh of the
sacrifice to the various owners of fields, who buried them. At a later
time all human sacrifices were prohibited, but we have reports down to
the eleventh century A.D., and even later, that such sacrifices were
offered secretly in certain regions of central China. In other regions a
great boat festival was held in the spring, to which many crews came
crowded in long narrow boats. At least one of the boats had to capsize;
the people who were thus drowned were a sacrifice to the deities of
fertility. This festival has maintained its fundamental character to
this day, in spite of various changes. The same is true of other
festivals, customs, and conceptions, vestiges of which are contained at
least in folklore.

In addition to the nature deities which were implored to give fertility,
to send rain, or to prevent floods and storms, the Shang also
worshipped deceased rulers and even dead ministers as a kind of
intermediaries between man and the highest deity, Shang Ti. This
practice may be regarded as the forerunner of "ancestral worship" which
became so typical of later China.

3 _Transition to feudalism_

At the head of the Shang state was a king, posthumously called a "Ti",
the same word as in the name of the supreme god. We have found on bones
the names of all the rulers of this dynasty and even some of their
pre-dynastic ancestors. These names can be brought into agreement with
lists of rulers found in the ancient Chinese literature. The ruler seems
to have been a high priest, too; and around him were many other priests.
We know some of them now so well from the inscriptions that their
biographies could be written. The king seems to have had some kind of
bureaucracy. There were "ch'en", officials who served the ruler
personally, as well as scribes and military officials. The basic army
organization was in units of one hundred men which were combined as
"right", "left" and "central" units into an army of 300 men. But it
seems that the central power did not extend very far. In the more
distant parts of the realm were more or less independent lords, who
recognized the ruler only as their supreme lord and religious leader. We
may describe this as an early, loose form of the feudal system, although
the main element of real feudalism was still absent. The main
obligations of these lords were to send tributes of grain, to
participate with their soldiers in the wars, to send tortoise shells to
the capital to be used there for oracles, and to send occasionally
cattle and horses. There were some thirty such dependent states.
Although we do not know much about the general population, we know that
the rulers had a patrilinear system of inheritance. After the death of
the ruler his brothers followed him on the throne, the older brothers
first. After the death of all brothers, the sons of older or younger
brothers became rulers. No preference was shown to the son of the oldest
brother, and no preference between sons of main or of secondary wives is
recognizable. Thus, the Shang patrilinear system was much less extreme
than the later system. Moreover, the deceased wives of the rulers played
a great role in the cult, another element which later disappeared. From
these facts and from the general structure of Shang religion it has been
concluded that there was a strong matrilinear strain in Shang culture.
Although this cannot be proved, it seems quite plausible because we know
of matrilinear societies in the South of China at later times.

About the middle of the Shang period there occurred interesting
changes, probably under the influence of nomad peoples from the

In religion there appears some evidence of star-worship. The deities
seem to have been conceived as a kind of celestial court of Shang Ti,
as his "officials". In the field of material culture, horse-breeding
becomes more and more evident. Some authors believe that the art of
riding was already known in late Shang times, although it was certainly
not yet so highly developed that cavalry units could be used in war.
With horse-breeding the two-wheeled light war chariot makes its
appearance. The wheel was already known in earlier times in the form of
the potter's wheel. Recent excavations have brought to light burials in
which up to eighteen chariots with two or four horses were found
together with the owners of the chariots. The cart is not a Chinese
invention but came from the north, possibly from Turkish peoples. It has
been contended that it was connected with the war chariot of the Near
East: shortly before the Shang period there had been vast upheavals in
western Asia, mainly in connection with the expansion of peoples who
spoke Indo-European languages (Hittites, etc.) and who became successful
through the use of quick, light, two-wheeled war-chariots. It is
possible, but cannot be proved, that the war-chariot spread
through Central Asia in connection with the spread of such
Indo-European-speaking groups or by the intermediary of Turkish tribes.
We have some reasons to believe that the first Indo-European-speaking
groups arrived in the Far East in the middle of the second millennium
B.C. Some authors even connect the Hsia with these groups. In any case,
the maximal distribution of these people seems to have been to the
western borders of the Shang state. As in Western Asia, a Shang-time
chariot was manned by three men: the warrior who was a nobleman, his
driver, and his servant who handed him arrows or other weapons when
needed. There developed a quite close relationship between the nobleman
and his chariot-driver. The chariot was a valuable object, manufactured
by specialists; horses were always expensive and rare in China, and in
many periods of Chinese history horses were directly imported from
nomadic tribes in the North or West. Thus, the possessors of vehicles
formed a privileged class in the Shang realm; they became a sort of
nobility, and the social organization began to move in the direction of
feudalism. One of the main sports of the noblemen in this period, in
addition to warfare, was hunting. The Shang had their special hunting
grounds south of the mountains which surround Shansi province, along the
slopes of the T'ai-hang mountain range, and south to the shores of the
Yellow river. Here, there were still forests and swamps in Shang time,
and boars, deer, buffaloes and other animals, as well as occasional
rhinoceros and elephants, were hunted. None of these wild animals was
used as a sacrifice; all sacrificial animals, such as cattle, pigs,
etc., were domesticated animals.

Below the nobility we find large numbers of dependent people; modern
Chinese scholars call them frequently "slaves" and speak of a "slave
society". There is no doubt that at least some farmers were "free
farmers"; others were what we might call "serfs": families in hereditary
group dependence upon some noble families and working on land which the
noble families regarded as theirs. Families of artisans and craftsmen
also were hereditary servants of noble families--a type of social
organization which has its parallels in ancient Japan and in later India
and other parts of the world. There were also real slaves: persons who
were the personal property of noblemen. The independent states around
the Shang state also had serfs. When the Shang captured neighbouring
states, they resettled the captured foreign aristocracy by attaching
them as a group to their own noblemen. The captured serfs remained under
their masters and shared their fate. The same system was later practiced
by the Chou after their conquest of the Shang state.

The conquests of late Shang added more territory to the realm than could
be coped with by the primitive communications of the time. When the last
ruler of Shang made his big war which lasted 260 days against the tribes
in the south-east, rebellions broke out which lead to the end of the
dynasty, about 1028 B.C. according to the new chronology (1122 B.C. old


Chapter Three

THE CHOU DYNASTY (_c_. 1028-257 B.C.)

1 _Cultural origin of the Chou and end of the Shang dynasty_

The Shang culture still lacked certain things that were to become
typical of "Chinese" civilization. The family system was not yet the
strong patriarchal system of the later Chinese. The religion, too, in
spite of certain other influences, was still a religion of agrarian
fertility. And although Shang society was strongly stratified and showed
some tendencies to develop a feudal system, feudalism was still very
primitive. Although the Shang script was the precursor of later Chinese
script, it seemed to have contained many words which later disappeared,
and we are not sure whether Shang language was the same as the language
of Chou time. With the Chou period, however, we enter a period in which
everything which was later regarded as typically "Chinese" began to

During the time of the Shang dynasty the Chou formed a small realm in
the west, at first in central Shensi, an area which even in much later
times was the home of many "non-Chinese" tribes. Before the beginning of
the eleventh century B.C. they must have pushed into eastern Shensi, due
to pressures of other tribes which may have belonged to the Turkish
ethnic group. However, it is also possible that their movement was
connected with pressures from Indo-European groups. An analysis of their
tribal composition at the time of the conquest seems to indicate that
the ruling house of the Chou was related to the Turkish group, and that
the population consisted mainly of Turks and Tibetans. Their culture was
closely related to that of Yang-shao, the previously described
painted-pottery culture, with, of course, the progress brought by time.
They had bronze weapons and, especially, the war-chariot. Their eastward
migration, however, brought them within the zone of the Shang culture,
by which they were strongly influenced, so that the Chou culture lost
more and more of its original character and increasingly resembled the
Shang culture. The Chou were also brought into the political sphere of
the Shang, as shown by the fact that marriages took place between the
ruling houses of Shang and Chou, until the Chou state became nominally
dependent on the Shang state in the form of a dependency with special
prerogatives. Meanwhile the power of the Chou state steadily grew, while
that of the Shang state diminished more and more through the disloyalty
of its feudatories and through wars in the East. Finally, about 1028
B.C., the Chou ruler, named Wu Wang ("the martial king"), crossed his
eastern frontier and pushed into central Honan. His army was formed by
an alliance between various tribes, in the same way as happened again
and again in the building up of the armies of the rulers of the steppes.
Wu Wang forced a passage across the Yellow River and annihilated the
Shang army. He pursued its vestiges as far as the capital, captured the
last emperor of the Shang, and killed him. Thus was the Chou dynasty
founded, and with it we begin the actual history of China. The Chou
brought to the Shang culture strong elements of Turkish and also Tibetan
culture, which were needed for the release of such forces as could
create a new empire and maintain it through thousands of years as a
cultural and, generally, also a political unit.

2 _Feudalism in the new empire_

A natural result of the situation thus produced was the turning of the
country into a feudal state. The conquerors were an alien minority, so
that they had to march out and spread over the whole country. Moreover,
the allied tribal chieftains expected to be rewarded. The territory to
be governed was enormous, but the communications in northern China at
that time were similar to those still existing not long ago in southern
China--narrow footpaths from one settlement to another. It is very
difficult to build roads in the loess of northern China; and the
war-chariots that required roads had only just been introduced. Under
such conditions, the simplest way of administering the empire was to
establish garrisons of the invading tribes in the various parts of the
country under the command of their chieftains. Thus separate regions of
the country were distributed as fiefs. If a former subject of the Shang
surrendered betimes with the territory under his rule, or if there was
one who could not be overcome by force, the Chou recognized him as a
feudal lord.

We find in the early Chou time the typical signs of true feudalism:
fiefs were given in a ceremony in which symbolically a piece of earth
was handed over to the new fiefholder, and his instalment, his rights
and obligations were inscribed in a "charter". Most of the fiefholders
were members of the Chou ruling family or members of the clan to which
this family belonged; other fiefs were given to heads of the allied
tribes. The fiefholder (feudal lord) regarded the land of his fief, as
far as he and his clan actually used it, as "clan" land; parts of this
land he gave to members of his own branch-clan for their use without
transferring rights of property, thus creating new sub-fiefs and
sub-lords. In much later times the concept of landed property of a
_family_ developed, and the whole concept of "clan" disappeared. By 500
B.C., most feudal lords had retained only a dim memory that they
originally belonged to the Chi clan of the Chou or to one of the few
other original clans, and their so-called sub-lords felt themselves as
members of independent noble families. Slowly, then, the family names of
later China began to develop, but it took many centuries until, at the
time of the Han Dynasty, all citizens (slaves excluded) had accepted
family names. Then, reversely, families grew again into new clans.

Thus we have this picture of the early Chou state: the imperial central
power established in Shensi, near the present Sian; over a thousand
feudal states, great and small, often consisting only of a small
garrison, or sometimes a more considerable one, with the former
chieftain as feudal lord over it. Around these garrisons the old
population lived on, in the north the Shang population, farther east and
south various other peoples and cultures. The conquerors' garrisons were
like islands in a sea. Most of them formed new towns, walled, with a
rectangular plan and central crossroads, similar to the European towns
subsequently formed out of Roman encampments. This town plan has been
preserved to the present day.

This upper class in the garrisons formed the nobility; it was sharply
divided from the indigenous population around the towns The conquerors
called the population "the black-haired people", and themselves "the
hundred families". The rest of the town populations consisted often of
urban Shang people: Shang noble families together with their bondsmen
and serfs had been given to Chou fiefholders. Such forced resettlements
of whole populations have remained typical even for much later periods.
By this method new cities were provided with urban, refined people and,
most important, with skilled craftsmen and businessmen who assisted in
building the cities and in keeping them alive. Some scholars believe
that many resettled Shang urbanites either were or became businessmen;
incidentally, the same word "Shang" means "merchant", up to the present
time. The people of the Shang capital lived on and even attempted a
revolt in collaboration with some Chou people. The Chou rulers
suppressed this revolt, and then transferred a large part of this
population to Loyang. They were settled there in a separate community,
and vestiges of the Shang population were still to be found there in the
fifth century A.D.: they were entirely impoverished potters, still
making vessels in the old style.

3 _Fusion of Chou and Shang_

The conquerors brought with them, for their own purposes to begin with,
their rigid patriarchate in the family system and their cult of Heaven
(t'ien), in which the worship of sun and stars took the principal place;
a religion most closely related to that of the Turkish peoples and
derived from them. Some of the Shang popular deities, however, were
admitted into the official Heaven-worship. Popular deities became
"feudal lords" under the Heaven-god. The Shang conceptions of the soul
were also admitted into the Chou religion: the human body housed two
souls, the personality-soul and the life-soul. Death meant the
separation of the souls from the body, the life-soul also slowly dying.
The personality-soul, however, could move about freely and lived as long
as there were people who remembered it and kept it from hunger by means
of sacrifices. The Chou systematized this idea and made it into the
ancestor-worship that has endured down to the present time.

The Chou officially abolished human sacrifices, especially since, as
former pastoralists, they knew of better means of employing prisoners of
war than did the more agrarian Shang. The Chou used Shang and other
slaves as domestic servants for their numerous nobility, and Shang serfs
as farm labourers on their estates. They seem to have regarded the land
under their control as "state land" and all farmers as "serfs". A slave,
here, must be defined as an individual, a piece of property, who was
excluded from membership in human society but, in later legal texts, was
included under domestic animals and immobile property, while serfs as a
class depended upon another class and had certain rights, at least the
right to work on the land. They could change their masters if the land
changed its master, but they could not legally be sold individually.
Thus, the following, still rather hypothetical, picture of the land
system of the early Chou time emerges: around the walled towns of the
feudal lords and sub-lords, always in the plains, was "state land" which
produced millet and more and more wheat. Cultivation was still largely
"shifting", so that the serfs in groups cultivated more or less
standardized plots for a year or more and then shifted to other plots.
During the growing season they lived in huts on the fields; during the
winter in the towns in adobe houses. In this manner the yearly life
cycle was divided into two different periods. The produce of the serfs
supplied the lords, their dependants and the farmers themselves.
Whenever the lord found it necessary, the serfs had to perform also
other services for the lord. Farther away from the towns were the
villages of the "natives", nominally also subjects of the lord. In most
parts of eastern China, these, too, were agriculturists. They
acknowledged their dependence by sending "gifts" to the lord in the
town. Later these gifts became institutionalized and turned into a form
of tax. The lord's serfs, on the other hand, tended to settle near the
fields in villages of their own because, with growing urban population,
the distances from the town to many of the fields became too great. It
was also at this time of new settlements that a more intensive
cultivation with a fallow system began. At latest from the sixth century
B.C. on, the distinctions between both land systems became unclear; and
the pure serf-cultivation, called by the old texts the "well-field
system" because eight cultivating families used one common well,
disappeared in practice.

The actual structure of early Chou administration is difficult to
ascertain. The "Duke of Chou", brother of the first ruler, Wu Wang,
later regent during the minority of Wu Wang's son, and certainly one of
the most influential persons of this time, was the alleged creator of
the book _Chou-li_ which contains a detailed table of the bureaucracy of
the country. However, we know now from inscriptions that the bureaucracy
at the beginning of the Chou period was not much more developed than in
late Shang time. The _Chou-li_ gave an ideal picture of a bureaucratic
state, probably abstracted from actual conditions in feudal states
several centuries later.

The Chou capital, at Sian, was a twin city. In one part lived the
master-race of the Chou with the imperial court, in the other the
subjugated population. At the same time, as previously mentioned, the
Chou built a second capital, Loyang, in the present province of Honan.
Loyang was just in the middle of the new state, and for the purposes of
Heaven-worship it was regarded as the centre of the universe, where it
was essential that the emperor should reside. Loyang was another twin
city: in one part were the rulers' administrative buildings, in the
other the transferred population of the Shang capital, probably artisans
for the most part. The valuable artisans seem all to have been taken
over from the Shang, for the bronze vessels of the early Chou age are
virtually identical with those of the Shang age. The shapes of the
houses also remained unaltered, and probably also the clothing, though
the Chou brought with them the novelties of felt and woollen fabrics,
old possessions of their earlier period. The only fundamental material
change was in the form of the graves: in the Shang age house-like tombs
were built underground; now great tumuli were constructed in the fashion
preferred by all steppe peoples.

One professional class was severely hit by the changed
circumstances--the Shang priesthood. The Chou had no priests. As with
all the races of the steppes, the head of the family himself performed
the religious rites. Beyond this there were only shamans for certain
purposes of magic. And very soon Heaven-worship was combined with the
family system, the ruler being declared to be the Son of Heaven; the
mutual relations within the family were thus extended to the religious
relations with the deity. If, however, the god of Heaven is the father
of the ruler, the ruler as his son himself offers sacrifice, and so the
priest becomes superfluous. Thus the priests became "unemployed". Some
of them changed their profession. They were the only people who could
read and write, and as an administrative system was necessary they
obtained employment as scribes. Others withdrew to their villages and
became village priests. They organized the religious festivals in the
village, carried out the ceremonies connected with family events, and
even conducted the exorcism of evil spirits with shamanistic dances;
they took charge, in short, of everything connected with customary
observances and morality. The Chou lords were great respecters of
propriety. The Shang culture had, indeed, been a high one with an
ancient and highly developed moral system, and the Chou as rough
conquerors must have been impressed by the ancient forms and tried to
imitate them. In addition, they had in their religion of Heaven a
conception of the existence of mutual relations between Heaven and
Earth: all that went on in the skies had an influence on earth, and vice
versa. Thus, if any ceremony was "wrongly" performed, it had an evil
effect on Heaven--there would be no rain, or the cold weather would
arrive too soon, or some such misfortune would come. It was therefore of
great importance that everything should be done "correctly". Hence the
Chou rulers were glad to call in the old priests as performers of
ceremonies and teachers of morality similar to the ancient Indian rulers
who needed the Brahmans for the correct performance of all rites. There
thus came into existence in the early Chou empire a new social group,
later called "scholars", men who were not regarded as belonging to the
lower class represented by the subjugated population but were not
included in the nobility; men who were not productively employed but
belonged to a sort of independent profession. They became of very great
importance in later centuries.

In the first centuries of the Chou dynasty the ruling house steadily
lost power. Some of the emperors proved weak, or were killed at war;
above all, the empire was too big and its administration too
slow-moving. The feudal lords and nobles were occupied with their own
problems in securing the submission of the surrounding villages to their
garrisons and in governing them; they soon paid little attention to the
distant central authority. In addition to this, the situation at the
centre of the empire was more difficult than that of its feudal states
farther east. The settlements around the garrisons in the east were
inhabited by agrarian tribes, but the subjugated population around the
centre at Sian was made up of nomadic tribes of Turks and Mongols
together with semi-nomadic Tibetans. Sian lies in the valley of the
river Wei; the riverside country certainly belonged, though perhaps only
insecurely, to the Shang empire and was specially well adapted to
agriculture; but its periphery--mountains in the south, steppes in the
north--was inhabited (until a late period, to some extent to the present
day) by nomads, who had also been subjugated by the Chou. The Chou
themselves were by no means strong, as they had been only a small tribe
and their strength had depended on auxiliary tribes, which had now
spread over the country as the new nobility and lived far from the Chou.
The Chou emperors had thus to hold in check the subjugated but warlike
tribes of Turks and Mongols who lived quite close to their capital. In
the first centuries of the dynasty they were more or less successful,
for the feudal lords still sent auxiliary forces. In time, however,
these became fewer and fewer, because the feudal lords pursued their own
policy; and the Chou were compelled to fight their own battles against
tribes that continually rose against them, raiding and pillaging their
towns. Campaigns abroad also fell mainly on the shoulders of the Chou,
as their capital lay near the frontier.

It must not be simply assumed, as is often done by the Chinese and some
of the European historians, that the Turkish and Mongolian tribes were
so savage or so pugnacious that they continually waged war just for the
love of it. The problem is much deeper, and to fail to recognize this is
to fail to understand Chinese history down to the Middle Ages. The
conquering Chou established their garrisons everywhere, and these
garrisons were surrounded by the quarters of artisans and by the
villages of peasants, a process that ate into the pasturage of the
Turkish and Mongolian nomads. These nomads, as already mentioned,
pursued agriculture themselves on a small scale, but it occurred to them
that they could get farm produce much more easily by barter or by
raiding. Accordingly they gradually gave up cultivation and became pure
nomads, procuring the needed farm produce from their neighbours. This
abandonment of agriculture brought them into a precarious situation: if
for any reason the Chinese stopped supplying or demanded excessive
barter payment, the nomads had to go hungry. They were then virtually
driven to get what they needed by raiding. Thus there developed a mutual
reaction that lasted for centuries. Some of the nomadic tribes living
between garrisons withdrew, to escape from the growing pressure, mainly
into the province of Shansi, where the influence of the Chou was weak
and they were not numerous; some of the nomad chiefs lost their lives in
battle, and some learned from the Chou lords and turned themselves into
petty rulers. A number of "marginal" states began to develop; some of
them even built their own cities. This process of transformation of
agro-nomadic tribes into "warrior-nomadic" tribes continued over many
centuries and came to an end in the third or second century B.C.

The result of the three centuries that had passed was a symbiosis
between the urban aristocrats and the country-people. The rulers of the
towns took over from the general population almost the whole vocabulary
of the language which from now on we may call "Chinese". They naturally
took over elements of the material civilization. The subjugated
population had, meanwhile, to adjust itself to its lords. In the
organism that thus developed, with its unified economic system, the
conquerors became an aristocratic ruling class, and the subjugated
population became a lower class, with varied elements but mainly a
peasantry. From now on we may call this society "Chinese"; it has
endured to the middle of the twentieth century. Most later essential
societal changes are the result of internal development and not of
aggression from without.

4 _Limitation of the imperial power_

In 771 B.C. an alliance of northern feudal states had attacked the ruler
in his western capital; in a battle close to the city they had overcome
and killed him. This campaign appears to have set in motion considerable
groups from various tribes, so that almost the whole province of Shensi
was lost. With the aid of some feudal lords who had remained loyal, a
Chou prince was rescued and conducted eastward to the second capital,
Loyang, which until then had never been the ruler's actual place of
residence. In this rescue a lesser feudal prince, ruler of the feudal
state of Ch'in, specially distinguished himself. Soon afterwards this
prince, whose domain had lain close to that of the ruler, reconquered a
great part of the lost territory, and thereafter regarded it as his own
fief. The Ch'in family resided in the same capital in which the Chou
had lived in the past, and five hundred years later we shall meet with
them again as the dynasty that succeeded the Chou.

The new ruler, resident now in Loyang, was foredoomed to impotence. He
was now in the centre of the country, and less exposed to large-scale
enemy attacks; but his actual rule extended little beyond the town
itself and its immediate environment. Moreover, attacks did not entirely
cease; several times parts of the indigenous population living between
the Chou towns rose against the towns, even in the centre of the

Now that the emperor had no territory that could be the basis of a
strong rule and, moreover, because he owed his position to the feudal
lords and was thus under an obligation to them, he ruled no longer as
the chief of the feudal lords but as a sort of sanctified overlord; and
this was the position of all his successors. A situation was formed at
first that may be compared with that of Japan down to the middle of the
nineteenth century. The ruler was a symbol rather than an exerciser of
power. There had to be a supreme ruler because, in the worship of Heaven
which was recognized by all the feudal lords, the supreme sacrifices
could only be offered by the Son of Heaven in person. There could not be
a number of sons of heaven because there were not a number of heavens.
The imperial sacrifices secured that all should be in order in the
country, and that the necessary equilibrium between Heaven and Earth
should be maintained. For in the religion of Heaven there was a close
parallelism between Heaven and Earth, and every omission of a sacrifice,
or failure to offer it in due form, brought down a reaction from Heaven.
For these religious reasons a central ruler was a necessity for the
feudal lords. They needed him also for practical reasons. In the course
of centuries the personal relationship between the various feudal lords
had ceased. Their original kinship and united struggles had long been
forgotten. When the various feudal lords proceeded to subjugate the
territories at a distance from their towns, in order to turn their city
states into genuine territorial states, they came into conflict with
each other. In the course of these struggles for power many of the small
fiefs were simply destroyed. It may fairly be said that not until the
eighth and seventh centuries B.C. did the old garrison towns became real
states. In these circumstances the struggles between the feudal states
called urgently for an arbiter, to settle simple cases, and in more
difficult cases either to try to induce other feudal lords to intervene
or to give sanction to the new situation. These were the only governing
functions of the ruler from the time of the transfer to the second

5 _Changes in the relative strength of the feudal states_

In these disturbed times China also made changes in her outer frontiers.
When we speak of frontiers in this connection, we must take little
account of the European conception of a frontier. No frontier in that
sense existed in China until her conflict with the European powers. In
the dogma of the Chinese religion of Heaven, all the countries of the
world were subject to the Chinese emperor, the Son of Heaven. Thus there
could be no such thing as other independent states. In practice the
dependence of various regions on the ruler naturally varied: near the
centre, that is to say near the ruler's place of residence, it was most
pronounced; then it gradually diminished in the direction of the
periphery. The feudal lords of the inner territories were already rather
less subordinated than at the centre, and those at a greater distance
scarcely at all; at a still greater distance were territories whose
chieftains regarded themselves as independent, subject only in certain
respects to Chinese overlordship. In such a system it is difficult to
speak of frontiers. In practice there was, of course, a sort of
frontier, where the influence of the outer feudal lords ceased to exist.
The development of the original feudal towns into feudal states with
actual dominion over their territories proceeded, of course, not only in
the interior of China but also on its borders, where the feudal
territories had the advantage of more unrestricted opportunities of
expansion; thus they became more and more powerful. In the south (that
is to say, in the south of the Chou empire, in the present central
China) the garrisons that founded feudal states were relatively small
and widely separated; consequently their cultural system was largely
absorbed into that of the aboriginal population, so that they developed
into feudal states with a character of their own. Three of these
attained special importance--(1) Ch'u, in the neighbourhood of the
present Chungking and Hankow; (2) Wu, near the present Nanking; and (3)
Yueeh, near the present Hangchow. In 704 B.C. the feudal prince of Wu
proclaimed himself "Wang". "Wang", however was the title of the ruler of
the Chou dynasty. This meant that Wu broke away from the old Chou
religion of Heaven, according to which there could be only one ruler
(_wang_) in the world.

At the beginning of the seventh century it became customary for the
ruler to unite with the feudal lord who was most powerful at the time.
This feudal lord became a dictator, and had the military power in his
hands, like the shoguns in nineteenth-century Japan. If there was a
disturbance of the peace, he settled the matter by military means. The
first of these dictators was the feudal lord of the state of Ch'i, in
the present province of Shantung. This feudal state had grown
considerably through the conquest of the outer end of the peninsula of
Shantung, which until then had been independent. Moreover, and this was
of the utmost importance, the state of Ch'i was a trade centre. Much of
the bronze, and later all the iron, for use in northern China came from
the south by road and in ships that went up the rivers to Ch'i, where it
was distributed among the various regions of the north, north-east, and
north-west. In addition to this, through its command of portions of the
coast, Ch'i had the means of producing salt, with which it met the needs
of great areas of eastern China. It was also in Ch'i that money was
first used. Thus Ch'i soon became a place of great luxury, far
surpassing the court of the Chou, and Ch'i also became the centre of the
most developed civilization.

[Illustration: Map 2: The principal feudal States in the feudal epoch.
(_roughly 722-481 B.C._)]

After the feudal lord of Ch'i, supported by the wealth and power of his
feudal state, became dictator, he had to struggle not only against other
feudal lords, but also many times against risings among the most various
parts of the population, and especially against the nomad tribes in the
southern part of the present province of Shansi. In the seventh century
not only Ch'i but the other feudal states had expanded. The regions in
which the nomad tribes were able to move had grown steadily smaller, and
the feudal lords now set to work to bring the nomads of their country
under their direct rule. The greatest conflict of this period was the
attack in 660 B.C. against the feudal state of Wei, in northern Honan.
The nomad tribes seem this time to have been proto-Mongols; they made a
direct attack on the garrison town and actually conquered it. The
remnant of the urban population, no more than 730 in number, had to flee
southward. It is clear from this incident that nomads were still living
in the middle of China, within the territory of the feudal states, and
that they were still decidedly strong, though no longer in a position to
get rid entirely of the feudal lords of the Chou.

The period of the dictators came to an end after about a century,
because it was found that none of the feudal states was any longer
strong enough to exercise control over all the others. These others
formed alliances against which the dictator was powerless. Thus this
period passed into the next, which the Chinese call the period of the
Contending States.

6 _Confucius_

After this survey of the political history we must consider the
intellectual history of this period, for between 550 and 280 B.C. the
enduring fundamental influences in the Chinese social order and in the
whole intellectual life of China had their original. We saw how the
priests of the earlier dynasty of the Shang developed into the group of
so-called "scholars". When the Chou ruler, after the move to the second
capital, had lost virtually all but his religious authority, these
"scholars" gained increased influence. They were the specialists in
traditional morals, in sacrifices, and in the organization of festivals.
The continually increasing ritualism at the court of the Chou called for
more and more of these men. The various feudal lords also attracted
these scholars to their side, employed them as tutors for their
children, and entrusted them with the conduct of sacrifices and

China's best-known philosopher, Confucius (Chinese: K'ung Tz[)u], was
one of these scholars. He was born in 551 B.C. in the feudal state Lu in
the present province of Shantung. In Lu and its neighbouring state Sung,
institutions of the Shang had remained strong; both states regarded
themselves as legitimate heirs of Shang culture, and many traces of
Shang culture can be seen in Confucius's political and ethical ideas. He
acquired the knowledge which a scholar had to possess, and then taught
in the families of nobles, also helping in the administration of their
properties. He made several attempts to obtain advancement, either in
vain or with only a short term of employment ending in dismissal. Thus
his career was a continuing pilgrimage from one noble to another, from
one feudal lord to another, accompanied by a few young men, sons of
scholars, who were partly his pupils and partly his servants. Many of
these disciples seem to have been "illegitimate" sons of noblemen, i.e.
sons of concubines, and Confucius's own family seems to have been of the
same origin. In the strongly patriarchal and patrilinear system of the
Chou and the developing primogeniture, children of secondary wives had a
lower social status. Ultimately Confucius gave up his wanderings,
settled in his home town of Lu, and there taught his disciples until his
death in 479 B.C.

Such was briefly the life of Confucius. His enemies claim that he was a
political intriguer, inciting the feudal lords against each other in the
course of his wanderings from one state to another, with the intention
of somewhere coming into power himself. There may, indeed, be some truth
in that.

Confucius's importance lies in the fact that he systematized a body of
ideas, not of his own creation, and communicated it to a circle of
disciples. His teachings were later set down in writing and formed,
right down to the twentieth century, the moral code of the upper classes
of China. Confucius was fully conscious of his membership of a social
class whose existence was tied to that of the feudal lords. With their
disappearance, his type of scholar would become superfluous. The common
people, the lower class, was in his view in an entirely subordinate
position. Thus his moral teaching is a code for the ruling class.
Accordingly it retains almost unaltered the elements of the old cult of
Heaven, following the old tradition inherited from the northern peoples.
For him Heaven is not an arbitrarily governing divine tyrant, but the
embodiment of a system of legality. Heaven does not act independently,
but follows a universal law, the so-called "Tao". Just as sun, moon, and
stars move in the heavens in accordance with law, so man should conduct
himself on earth in accord with the universal law, not against it. The
ruler should not actively intervene in day-to-day policy, but should
only act by setting an example, like Heaven; he should observe the
established ceremonies, and offer all sacrifices in accordance with the
rites, and then all else will go well in the world. The individual, too,
should be guided exactly in his life by the prescriptions of the rites,
so that harmony with the law of the universe may be established.

A second idea of the Confucian system came also from the old conceptions
of the Chou conquerors, and thus originally from the northern peoples.
This is the patriarchal idea, according to which the family is the cell
of society, and at the head of the family stands the eldest male adult
as a sort of patriarch. The state is simply an extension of the family,
"state", of course, meaning simply the class of the feudal lords (the
"chuen-tz[)u]"). And the organization of the family is also that of the
world of the gods. Within the family there are a number of ties, all of
them, however, one-sided: that of father to son (the son having to obey
the father unconditionally and having no rights of his own;) that of
husband to wife (the wife had no rights); that of elder to younger
brother. An extension of these is the association of friend with friend,
which is conceived as an association between an elder and a younger
brother. The final link, and the only one extending beyond the family
and uniting it with the state, is the association of the ruler with the
subject, a replica of that between father and son. The ruler in turn is
in the position of son to Heaven. Thus in Confucianism the cult of
Heaven, the family system, and the state are welded into unity. The
frictionless functioning of this whole system is effected by everyone
adhering to the rites, which prescribe every important action. It is
necessary, of course, that in a large family, in which there may be up
to a hundred persons living together, there shall be a precisely
established ordering of relationships between individuals if there is
not to be continual friction. Since the scholars of Confucius's type
specialized in the knowledge and conduct of ceremonies, Confucius gave
ritualism a correspondingly important place both in spiritual and in
practical life.

So far as we have described it above, the teaching of Confucius was a
further development of the old cult of Heaven. Through bitter
experience, however, Confucius had come to realize that nothing could be
done with the ruling house as it existed in his day. So shadowy a figure
as the Chou ruler of that time could not fulfil what Confucius required
of the "Son of Heaven". But the opinions of students of Confucius's
actual ideas differ. Some say that in the only book in which he
personally had a hand, the so-called _Annals of Spring and Autumn_, he
intended to set out his conception of the character of a true emperor;
others say that in that book he showed how he would himself have acted
as emperor, and that he was only awaiting an opportunity to make himself
emperor. He was called indeed, at a later time, the "uncrowned ruler".
In any case, the _Annals of Spring and Autumn_ seem to be simply a dry
work of annals, giving the history of his native state of Lu on the
basis of the older documents available to him. In his text, however,
Confucius made small changes by means of which he expressed criticism or
recognition; in this way he indirectly made known how in his view a
ruler should act or should not act. He did not shrink from falsifying
history, as can today be demonstrated. Thus on one occasion a ruler had
to flee from a feudal prince, which in Confucius's view was impossible
behaviour for the ruler; accordingly he wrote instead that the ruler
went on a hunting expedition. Elsewhere he tells of an eclipse of the
sun on a certain day, on which in fact there was no eclipse. By writing
of an eclipse he meant to criticize the way a ruler had acted, for the
sun symbolized the ruler, and the eclipse meant that the ruler had not
been guided by divine illumination. The demonstration that the _Annals
of Spring and Autumn_ can only be explained in this way was the
achievement some thirty-five years ago of Otto Franke, and through this
discovery Confucius's work, which the old sinologists used to describe
as a dry and inadequate book, has become of special value to us. The
book ends with the year 481 B.C., and in spite of its distortions it is
the principal source for the two-and-a-half centuries with which it

Rendered alert by this experience, we are able to see and to show that
most of the other later official works of history follow the example of
the _Annals of Spring and Autumn_ in containing things that have been
deliberately falsified. This is especially so in the work called
_T'ung-chien kang-mu_, which was the source of the history of the
Chinese empire translated into French by de Mailla.

Apart from Confucius's criticism of the inadequate capacity of the
emperor of his day, there is discernible, though only in the form of
cryptic hints, a fundamentally important progressive idea. It is that a
nobleman (chuen-tz[)u] should not be a member of the ruling _elite_ by
right of birth alone, but should be a man of superior moral qualities.
From Confucius on, "chuen-tz[)u]" became to mean "a gentleman".
Consequently, a country should not be ruled by a dynasty based on
inheritance through birth, but by members of the nobility who show
outstanding moral qualification for rulership. That is to say, the rule
should pass from the worthiest to the worthiest, the successor first
passing through a period of probation as a minister of state. In an
unscrupulous falsification of the tradition, Confucius declared that
this principle was followed in early times. It is probably safe to
assume that Confucius had in view here an eventual justification of
claims to rulership of his own.

Thus Confucius undoubtedly had ideas of reform, but he did not interfere
with the foundations of feudalism. For the rest, his system consists
only of a social order and a moral teaching. Metaphysics, logic,
epistemology, i.e. branches of philosophy which played so great a part
in the West, are of no interest to him. Nor can he be described as the
founder of a religion; for the cult of Heaven of which he speaks and
which he takes over existed in exactly the same form before his day. He
is merely the man who first systematized those notions. He had no
successes in his lifetime and gained no recognition; nor did his
disciples or their disciples gain any general recognition; his work did
not become of importance until some three hundred years after his death,
when in the second century B.C. his teaching was adjusted to the new
social conditions: out of a moral system for the decaying feudal society
of the past centuries developed the ethic of the rising social order of
the gentry. The gentry (in much the same way as the European
bourgeoisie) continually claimed that there should be access for every
civilized citizen to the highest places in the social pyramid, and the
rules of Confucianism became binding on every member of society if he
was to be considered a gentleman. Only then did Confucianism begin to
develop into the imposing system that dominated China almost down to the
present day. Confucianism did not become a religion. It was comparable
to the later Japanese Shintoism, or to a group of customs among us which
we all observe, if we do not want to find ourselves excluded from our
community, but which we should never describe as religion. We stand up
when the national anthem is played, we give precedency to older people,
we erect war memorials and decorate them with flowers, and by these and
many other things show our sense of belonging. A similar but much more
conscious and much more powerful part was played by Confucianism in the
life of the average Chinese, though he was not necessarily interested in
philosophical ideas.

While the West has set up the ideal of individualism and is suffering
now because it no longer has any ethical system to which individuals
voluntarily submit; while for the Indians the social problem consisted
in the solving of the question how every man could be enabled to live
his life with as little disturbance as possible from his fellow-men,
Confucianism solved the problem of how families with groups of hundreds
of members could live together in peace and co-operation in a densely
populated country. Everyone knew his position in the family and so, in a
broader sense, in the state; and this prescribed his rights and duties.
We may feel that the rules to which he was subjected were pedantic; but
there was no limit to their effectiveness: they reduced to a minimum the
friction that always occurs when great masses of people live close
together; they gave Chinese society the strength through which it has
endured; they gave security to its individuals. China's first real
social crisis after the collapse of feudalism, that is to say, after the
fourth or third century B.C., began only in the present century with the
collapse of the social order of the gentry and the breakdown of the
family system.

7 _Lao Tz[)u]_

In eighteenth-century Europe Confucius was the only Chinese philosopher
held in regard; in the last hundred years, the years of Europe's
internal crisis, the philosopher Lao Tz[)u] steadily advanced in repute,
so that his book was translated almost a hundred times into various
European languages. According to the general view among the Chinese, Lao
Tz[)u] was an older contemporary of Confucius; recent Chinese and
Western research (A. Waley; H.H. Dubs) has contested this view and
places Lao Tz[)u] in the latter part of the fourth century B.C., or even
later. Virtually nothing at all is known about his life; the oldest
biography of Lao Tz[)u], written about 100 B.C., says that he lived as
an official at the ruler's court and, one day, became tired of the life
of an official and withdrew from the capital to his estate, where he
died in old age. This, too, may be legendary, but it fits well into the
picture given to us by Lao Tz[)u]'s teaching and by the life of his
later followers. From the second century A.D., that is to say at least
four hundred years after his death, there are legends of his migrating
to the far west. Still later narratives tell of his going to Turkestan
(where a temple was actually built in his honour in the Medieval
period); according to other sources he travelled as far as India or
Sogdiana (Samarkand and Bokhara), where according to some accounts he
was the teacher or forerunner of Buddha, and according to others of
Mani, the founder of Manichaeism. For all this there is not a vestige of
documentary evidence.

Lao Tz[)u]'s teaching is contained in a small book, the _Tao Te Ching_,
the "Book of the World Law and its Power". The book is written in quite
simple language, at times in rhyme, but the sense is so vague that
countless versions, differing radically from each other, can be based on
it, and just as many translations are possible, all philologically
defensible. This vagueness is deliberate.

Lao Tz[)u]'s teaching is essentially an effort to bring man's life on
earth into harmony with the life and law of the universe (Tao). This was
also Confucius's purpose. But while Confucius set out to attain that
purpose in a sort of primitive scientific way, by laying down a number
of rules of human conduct, Lao Tz[)u] tries to attain his ideal by an
intuitive, emotional method. Lao Tz[)u] is always described as a mystic,
but perhaps this is not entirely appropriate; it must be borne in mind
that in his time the Chinese language, spoken and written, still had
great difficulties in the expression of ideas. In reading Lao Tz[)u]'s
book we feel that he is trying to express something for which the
language of his day was inadequate; and what he wanted to express
belonged to the emotional, not the intellectual, side of the human
character, so that any perfectly clear expression of it in words was
entirely impossible. It must be borne in mind that the Chinese language
lacks definite word categories like substantive, adjective, adverb, or
verb; any word can be used now in one category and now in another, with
a few exceptions; thus the understanding of a combination like "white
horse" formed a difficult logical problem for the thinker of the fourth
century B.C.: did it mean "white" plus "horse"? Or was "white horse" no
longer a horse at all but something quite different?

Confucius's way of bringing human life into harmony with the life of the
universe was to be a process of assimilating Man as a social being, Man

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